THE IRON (UPTAKE) CHEF CHALLENGE

I wish I could take credit for coming up with Iron Uptake Chef, but one of my readers – you know who you are – coined the term for me. Coolest title ever!  Iron uptake experiments are my “thing” in the lab. You know how a person might love to make pasta from scratch, or bake breads, or bake cookies, and that is their comfort zone in the kitchen? In a lab, we all have our favorite experiments. For me, by far, it is anything related to iron uptake. These experiments require careful timing and I was born with a chronometer inside my head. Anything that requires careful timing, please let me take care of it. I love it, and all modesty aside, do a pretty good job with it. For these experiments we must measure the radioactivity in hundreds of test tubes, one by one, using a machine called gamma-counter, aka My Preciousssss.

If something happens with My Preciousssss, I am in deep, deep trouble. Unfortunately that is exactly what I faced last year. My beloved gamma-counter died. I suspected a mechanical problem, the chains that move the tubes around were stuck. Our counter is old (built in 1990), no one services it anymore, parts are next to impossible to find.  So the Iron Uptake Chef was left with 180 samples inside the machine. Paralyzed. We considered buying a new machine, but the price tag is painful: about 25K.

In despair, we asked our IT guy to take a look at it. He’s been working in our department for 30 years (!!!), and performs all sorts of miracles in anything involving computers and beyond. Gamma-counters go beyond the definition of beyond, but… he said he would take a look at it. Yes, it was a mechanical problem, and he thought that replacing one component that rotates a big handle inside the machine could be the key to solve it. He took the part out, searched for it on ebay, and found something that seemed to be a good replacement. A few more days went by, the radioactivity in my samples decaying at the same rate my hyperventilation was increasing.  When we finally got the part, the dimension of one metal component was too big, it would not fit in the little space available for it. Undeterred, our guru got a special saw and “trimmed” the part to fit. He worked a whole weekend on it, and by Monday morning my Preciousss was in top shape, and my experiment saved!

So how do you even begin to say thank you for someone who went not just the extra mile, but what it amounts to a full marathon for you?  I asked him what was his favorite cake, and promised I would bake him one. As he considered all the possibilities, I started to shake inside, fearing the worst. What have I just done? Have I set myself to calamitous trouble? Could he possibly pick a Gateau Saint-Honore’? A Sacher Torte, perhaps? Well, it was challenge enough for this Iron Woman. Stay tuned for the outcome…

(to be continued….)

 

 

 

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LA COURONNE BORDELAISE

My first bread bake of 2018!

If you want to impress your guests or family with a bread that is actually surprisingly easy to shape, look no further, gather your ingredients and go to work…

The recipe comes from the Craftsy online class “The Baker’s Guide to Artisan Bread Shaping” taught by Chef Ciril Hitz. You can use any bread dough you like, as long as the hydration level is not too high (65% is a good starting point). For the couronne, you will need almost a full kilogram of dough. Roughly that would be 600g flour (I used 550 g all-purpose white flour and 50g whole-wheat), 390 g water, 12 g of salt, 3 g of  yeast. Once the bread goes through the bulk fermentation, preferably in the fridge, you can proceed with the final shaping.  You can also double this recipe that calls for a pre-ferment instead. Again, the most important here is the hydration level to be kept more or less at 65%.

OVERVIEW OF SHAPING

If you performed the bulk fermentation in the fridge, bring the dough to room temperature and leave it for 30 minutes. Then, divide it in 9 portions of roughly 90g each (you will have a small amount of dough leftover, pita anyone?).  Shape eight of the balls as tight rolls, and reserve a portion of 90g unshaped.

Roll the last portion of 90g of dough as a circle measuring about 10 inches in diameter. It should be quite thin, so work patiently and allow the dough to rest in case it tightens up on you. (It’s the gluten speaking, but it calms down with some time to itself).  Once you get the dough rolled out, brush a little olive oil on the edges, then place the eight balls of dough sitting on the perimeter, making sure the seam is facing up.

Now let the shaped bread rest for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Since it was pretty cold, I left it proof for a full 90 minutes. Once that is completed, make cuts with a very sharp knife on the center of the rolled dough, in a star-shape, so that each ball is facing a little triangular flap of dough.  Carefully lift the edge of the triangle and fold it over each ball of dough, sticking it firmly at the top.  I found it easier to use small scissors to help with this step. Now carefully flip the whole thing over, and dust the surface with flour. You can see the whole process in the composite picture below.

Bake in a 470F oven for 30 minutes, with initial addition of steam. I baked it over a stone, and poured a cup of almost boiling water inside a baking sheet placed at the bottom of the stove. A little more hot water was added after 5 minutes of baking time. Remove the bread and allow it to completely cool over a rack…

This bread was a bit of a singer, which I found quite pleasing…  And I could not stop smiling as I looked at the beautiful crown on top… The brushing with olive oil prevents the flap from sticking, so that with the heat of the oven it floats in the air…

The crumb is not very open, and is expected from a bread with lower hydration, but it tasted great…  It was perfect with our dinner of Chicken Parmigiana on a super cold Saturday evening. If you cannot skip winter, might as well make comfort food and a hearty loaf of bread…

As I mentioned before, I think the Craftsy classes online are worth every penny. Even though I am giving you a general idea of how to make this bread, you can bake it pretty much in real-time with Chef Cyril, getting all the tips from him, including how to shape the balls to get optimal surface tension.  As you know, I only recommend things I love and this class is definitely one of them.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Special Birthday Dinner

TWO YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

THREE YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

SIX YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

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SOMEONE TURNS 70 TODAY!

This post is dedicated to my sister Norma, so my apologies to those who cannot read Portuguese…

Norma, holding her younger sister (yours truly).

Ser a irmã caçula – e caçula de verdade, 16 e 12 anos mais nova que as primeironas – e’ uma experiência interessante. Meio como ser filha única, mas não exatamente.  Irmãos separados por dois, tres, quatro anos, tendem a interagir de uma forma mais egalitária. Brincam juntos, aprendem juntos, brigam, se batem (principalmente se meninos), mas com a diferença grande de idade, tudo muda. Quando eu era criança, minhas irmãs eram adolescentes. Eu as olhava com uma certa admiracão velada, quando se aprontavam para sair, se analisavam no espelho, arrumando o cabelo, a maquiagem, escolhendo a roupa. Eu imaginava como deveriam estar se divertindo longe de casa, e que um dia quem sabe seria a minha vez. Quando eu tinha 10 anos elas se casaram e  minha vida mudou drásticamente, creio que ate’ aquele momento eu não sabia que fariam tanta falta.  Mas, tem coisas que a gente não pode mesmo antecipar.

Anos e anos se passaram e hoje minha ‘irmãzinha do meio” completa setenta anos de vida! Não estou la’ para comemorar, mas divido tres lembranças que por um motivo ou outro ficaram solidificadas na minha memória. A primeira, foi sentar com ela e folhear um caderno de desenho que ela tinha, feito para alguma matéria na escola, sei la’ o que seria. Aula de Desenho? Naquela época talvez existisse. Era uma coisa mais linda do que a outra, desenhos perfeitos, a lápis, alguns tinham um formato geométrico, outros eram desenhos de pessoas, rostos, e eu fecho os olhos ainda hoje e re-visito aquela mesma fascinação que senti. Minha irmã, uma artista!  Para mim, melhor do que Michelangelo…

Segunda memória. Um grupo de amigos e amigas das minhas irmãs estavam em casa e eu, como a caçulinha, rondando, tentando não me fazer muito evidente, para não correr o risco de ser mandada embora do grupo dos “adultos.”  Norma de repente comeca a cantar uma canção em italiano, francamente nao me lembro mais qual, mas era uma música famosa no Brasil naqueles tempos. A voz dela, lindíssima, clara, magnífica. O mundo silenciou, saboreando a beleza acústica de um momento especial. Pensar que quando eu canto os cães saem da sala… pode haver tanta injustiça em um único pool genético?

Terceira memória. Essa a mais especial. Tenho certeza que ela não faz ideia. Nas minhas décadas de vida, se eu tivesse que escolher cinco dias como os mais especiais da minha vida, esse seria um deles. Os detalhes são um pouco nebulosos. Por algum motivo eu não tinha ido para a escola e Norma, tambem por algum motivos inusitado, estava em casa. Naquela tarde, ela brincou comigo da hora do almoco ate’ a hora do jantar. Eu lembro que ela inventou a brincadeira toda, eu tinha umas garrafinhas coloridas de plástico, imitando garrafinhas de boliche, e eram parte da brincadeira. Não lembro mais grande coisa, so’ a sensação deliciosa de estar vivendo um dia especial. E lembro também que quando o dia acabou eu fiquei muito triste. Eu temia que nunca houvesse outro igual. De fato, não houve. Mas o que importa e’ que esse um valeu por milhares. Ainda que eu tenha levado mais de 40 anos para dividir essa lembrança com ela, antes tarde do que nunca….  Tagradecida!

FELIZ ANIVERSARIO PARA ALGUEM MUITO ESPECIAL QUE MORA DO LADO ESQUERDO DO MEU PEITO!

 

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SALMON A LA WELLINGTON, REVISITED


You know you’ve been blogging for a while when you got more than one recipe for Salmon Wellington… My previous take is pretty much our default method, because using phyllo dough considerably reduces the richness of the dish.  We make it regularly. It is interesting how once you keep making a recipe that seems quite involved at first, it becomes so easy to prepare you act as if it’s just like grilling a steak. First weekend of the year (with Salmon Wellington in my mind), I asked Phil if he had any particular recipe he’d been craving. I could not believe my ears when he picked it, almost instantaneously.  That’s when fate worked against us. We could no find phyllo dough at our store. Only phyllo cups. Drove to store number 2. No luck. Plenty of boxes of phyllo cups, empty shelf where the sheets would be. In despair, drove to Wal-Mart, a place I almost never visit. No cigar. Once you have a craving, you have a craving. Puff pastry it would be.  And since we started messing up with our classic, I changed a few more things and here I am to share this new version with you. It turned out excellent, and it might take the default spot for a while… An extra session of aerobics and we’ll be fine.

SALMON WELLINGTON
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

3 pieces of salmon filet, about 6 ounces each)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
1 large stalk celery, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup cooked crab meat, shredded (from 2 small crab legs)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
1/2 block cream cheese, at room temperature
minced fresh cilantro, to taste
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge for several hours
flour to roll out the pastry
egg wash made with 1 egg, 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt

Heat over to 375 F.

Prepare the topping by sauteing the celery and shallot pieces in olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. When all soft and translucent, transfer to a small bowl to cool down slightly. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice, shredded crab meat and fresh cilantro, mix all gently but well and reserve.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Roll out the puff pastry over a counter top lightly dusted with flour. Try to get it really thin, ideally one sheet should be enough to wrap three small salmon filets. Place the salmon filet over it, make sure it is dry, blot it with paper towels if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper. Place a good portion of cream cheese mixture on top. Wrap the filets with the dough. I actually found it easier to flip the pieces after the photo was taken, so that the filling is on top, and the edges of the pastry meet at the bottom of the parcel.

Cut a slit in the center of the packages. Brush with egg wash. Bake for about 22 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Let it cool slightly and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: A few pointers for success. First, if your pieces of salmon are not uniform in thickness, simply fold the thinner part underneath the piece, to prevent it from getting over-cooked and dry.  Second, roll the puff pastry as thin as you can without tearing it or making it too hard to wrap around the filets. One sheet of puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm in the brand I got) will be enough to wrap three small filets of fish.  Third, do not bake for more than 25 minutes, so that your salmon will still be moist and flavorful. With the pastry rolled thin, it will be long enough to fully bake it. The fish will be perfect inside, protected by the nice layer of crab and cream cheese mixture.

We enjoyed two of these babies at dinner, and next day shared the third one for lunch. I am very picky about eating leftover salmon, rarely find it tasty. This time was an exception, we placed it in the microwave for 2 minutes, to jump-start heating from the center, then immediately transferred it to our small oven at 400F. Worked great, the meat was still perfectly cooked and moist.

This would be a perfect dish for entertaining, as you can assemble it all in advance. When it’s time to eat, place in the oven and get the side dishes ready. Your guests will be impressed, I am sure… And let’s not even forget that Valentine’s Day is coming up fast… Salmon Wellington followed by a little chocolate lava cake sounds like a dream come true. Although we all know that real dreams are made of macarons…

Dinner is served!
Salmon Wellington, buttered asparagus, fresh oysters, a little Caesar salad…

ONE YEAR AGO: The Unbearable Unfairness of Cake Baking

TWO YEARS AGO: Hermit Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

FIVE YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

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PAIN AU CHOCOLAT

If you expect a diet-nutrition-low-cal-related post because it’s January, I am here to disappoint  you…

😉

While most people were busy “only” with the holiday season, we had an additional reason to celebrate in that final week of December. My beloved’s Birthday. To start the day on the right note, I decided to bake a batch of one of his all time favorite treats: Pain au Chocolat! Whenever we go to Paris and sit down for our first coffee next morning, it never fails,  he always asks for it.  The plain croissant can wait…  but, since they take the exact same dough, I said to myself why not make both? And that’s how a little bit of Paris was brought into a chilly Kansas morning.

PAIN AU CHOCOLAT (& CROISSANTS)
(reprinted with permission from Colette Christian, at Craftsy.com)

for the butter block (beurrage)
1+ ¼ pound unsalted butter (I used Plugra)

for the dough (dètrempe)
2 large eggs, beaten
16 ounces water at about 90 F
12 g instant or osmotolerant yeast
28 g nonfat dry milk powder
957 g unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (39 g) sugar
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter,  softened
2 teaspoons (16 g) salt

Make the butter block: In the mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on speed 2 until it has softened and no longer clings to the paddle. Mix for about 1 minute. The butter should be smooth. Roll it to a 10 inch square, as perfect as you can make it (I rolled it inside a quart size ziplock bag). Put it in the refrigerator as you work on the dough.

Make the dough: Put the eggs, yeast, water and dry milk powder in the mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix on speed 1 for 30 seconds to combine and dissolve the yeast.

Add the flour, sugar, butter and salt. Mix on speed one for 4 minutes, until the dough reaches “clean-up” stage.  Mix for 1 more minute on speed 1. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand for a couple of minutes. Do not add any additional flour to the dough or to the work surface.  Place the dough in a buttered bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove the butter from the refrigerator. Leave it resting for about 20 minutes, as the dough rests. Check to make sure it is the correct temperature. The butter is the perfect temperature is when the butter packet can be rolled on the edge of the counter without cracking.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to a 10 inch by 20 inch rectangle. Place the butter block on the left side of the dough. There should be one inch border of clear dough on all three opened sides. Fold the unbuttered side over the buttered side of the dough. Press down on the unbuttered edges to seal them. Dust flour under the dough so that it does not stick. Lightly dust the top. Roll out the dough until it measures 12 by 24 inches.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and turn the dough so that the long fold is furthest away from you and the long open side is nearest you. The two open short sides are at your right and left. Each time you make a turn the dough should be positioned in the same way. Mark the turns on the paper, crossing off each turn as you complete them.

Fold the dough in thirds (like a business letter) – always starting with the right side. Then fold the left side over the right. This is your first turn. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator and complete another turn. Return the dough to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes and then do one more turn. You have now completed all three turns and the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated overnight, or you can proceed with the final rolling out.

Roll the dough into a 26 by 17 inches rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise and straighten all the edges by trimming about 1/4 inch of the edges.  Cut the dough into triangles (base should be 4 inches, height should be 8 inches), or rectangles for pain au chocolat, as shown in my photo below. If making pain au chocolat, add a chocolate baton or sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate chips in the lower half of the dough. Brush with egg wash the farthest edge of the rectangle, then roll the dough around, making sure the egg wash part in tucked under.

Proof the croissants and pain au chocolat inside a large baking sheet covered with a plastic bag – include a large mug with very hot water to generate steam and make a nice temperature for proofing.  Check after 45 minutes, they should look a bit more plump. At that point, you can brush the surface of each little croissant and roll with egg wash. 

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for 15 minutes more. If they are not fully golden, bake for 7 to 8 minutes longer.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Have I praised enough the online classes at Craftsy? My first experience was macarons, also taught by Colette. Love her. Then, I decided to get the Classic Croissants at Home class and I must say I learned so much, it’s not even funny. Worth every penny, particularly because I got the class on a special end of the year sale. Cannot beat that. Croissants and pain au chocolat are all about precision. See that yard stick? She advises getting one and using it at every stage of rolling and folding. It makes life so much easier!  The recipe is detailed, but nothing compares to watching her make the dough and show you exactly what you are looking for. I highly recommend it. And she is very responsive, if you have doubts and asks her a question at the platform on the site, she usually will answer in a few minutes, or at most a couple of hours. Even during the holidays!

It is important to use either the batons sold specifically for pain au chocolat, or chocolate chips, because their formula prevents them from melting during baking. If you use regular chocolate, as you bite into it, you’ll be covered by a liquid lava. Yes, tasty, but not exactly the goal here.


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The proofing using a very large ziplock bag is pure genius. They sell those for storage of very large items and they work wonders to enclose a large baking sheet. The mug with hot water turns it into a home-made proofing device, moist and just warm enough for the dough to rise. I save two large bags for my baking, if any flour or egg wash glues to the inside, you can wash with warm water and dry them over the back of a chair.

There they are!  Cooling and waiting…

This was a very nice cooking project, perfect for a cold day. Of course it is a lot trickier to try and make laminated dough in the summer, so keep that in mind. One of the very few advantages of chilly weather. I would like to thank Colette for yet another superb class. Your attention to detail, and neatness during baking are really inspiring!

The best thing of making a big batch of these goodies is that they freeze very well. So, when the mood strikes, we remove a couple from the bag and place them, still frozen, in a 350F oven. In less than 10 minutes you can have croissants that taste as good as freshly baked…  What’s not to like?

ONE YEAR AGO: Two Unusual Takes on Roasted Veggies

TWO YEARS AGO: Kadoo Boranee: Butternut Squash Perfection

THREE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli Soup with Toasted Almonds

FOUR YEARS AGO:
 Fennel and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Festive Pomegranate Dessert

SIX YEARS AGO: My First Award!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs

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HAPPY NEW YEAR IN MY KITCHEN!


And another year starts!  I am feeling more energetic than ever, so be ready for a lot of cooking, a lot of baking, maybe some more daring culinary projects coming from this bewitched spot.  I start 2018 inviting you for a virtual stroll around our kitchen, a tradition started by Celia and now hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings. Stop by their virtual spots to say hello, will you?

And now, grab my hand and let’s get this party started!

Gift… So many gifts to show you, I feel I could almost do a full IMK post just with the goodies we’ve received for the past three months.

From Ms. A & Dr. S, our grad student & post-doc couple in the lab…

Addictive in a delicious way: Dry Samosas. You probably know too well how amazing samosas are?  Well, in India they turned them into snacks you buy ready to enjoy. This particular kind is super spicy, which is good, because one or two are satisfying, no need to go on until you reach the bottom of the bag…

Straight from India, from our student Mr. A, very nice sweets, the round, orange ones are made with besan flour, and are called Besan Ka Laddoo.  Sweet, exotic, wonderful, but my favorite is the other one, Kaju Katli made with ground cashews and milk, The edible silver leaf decoration makes it so elegant… It is simply divine!


From Uzbekistan, a beautiful tea set offered by the parents of our student, Dr. Y.  In my ignorance, I knew nothing about the sophisticated way tea is enjoyed in that country. Apparently, these authentic sets are hard to find, so I am forever grateful for having received them as a gift. You can read all about it here. And a very similar tea set is shown in the article. It made me feel on top of the world!

From our friend Cindy, the most colorful spreaders known to mankind. Don’t you think they have my name written all over? I knew you would agree… And do you see the green plate they are laying on? That was a gift from Cindy when I started my blog! How cool is that? Almost 9 years ago…


Still from Cindy, the latest cookbook by Christopher Kimball, in his new phase after leaving America’s Test Kitchen. The book is simply great. If you don’t have it, you need it.

My friends definitely know me well… another colorful offering, coming all the way from England! Our friend Denise sent me this planner, perfect for the list-maniac I am. Pages and pages to make lists, notes to self, stickers… I adore it! Confess to inaugurating it a couple of weeks before Christmas (sorry, Denise!).



From Phil, a new coffee mug from our favorite British ceramic artist, Mary Rose Young. Full disclosure: I broke one of our old ones, and almost had a fit, because Phil had given it to me years ago. He immediately went to work at ebay and within a few days, surprise surprise!  I know, I am a very lucky wife…


From a very dear friend Heather, from California, persimmons from her own backyard! She and her husband are amazing gardeners, you cannot imagine how many tomato plants they harvest every year in sunny California, and all sorts of veggies. These persimmons were the best we’ve ever tried.


From one dear departmental colleague at KSU, Ms. B…. sweets she made herself. Does she know I am crazy about white chocolate? Perhaps… I tell you, these are (ahem… were) amazing!

From our dear friends Marijo and Vlad, two – count them two – bottles of a balsamic vinegar that will make you go weak in the knees.  I swear I want to make a filling for macarons involving roasted strawberries and balsamic vinegar. I must go to work on this very important endeavor.

From Phil, the most amazing early Christmas gift (it was delivered a few days early)… an electric smoker!  We had enjoyed great smoked food during a visit to one of our friends in Michigan, and flirted with the idea of getting one. Well, there it is, sitting in our patio, a brand new Cookshack, great match for our home, aka The Love Shack..   (wink, wink). We’ve already enjoyed a couple of recipes and soon I’ll be sharing them with you.

And that wraps up the gifts we got since my last virtual tour through the Bewitching Kitchen… didn’t I tell you I could pretty much do a full post with them?  But, let’s move on…

In Our Kitchen…

Before the great meteorological disaster of 2017 (aka arrival of winter), we managed to harvest all the basil and the peppers produced in our backyard, thanks to the gardening efforts of my beloved husband.  I processed all the basil (trust me, it was a lot, the photo doesn’t show all of it), and made little portions of basil with olive oil, a touch of vitamin C to keep it nice and green. Then, when we need to use basil for a salad dressing, a sauce, or to turn it into real pesto, we are pretty much ready.


In our kitchen….

Phil’s new obsession… Jams from Maury Island Farm… he’s found it for the first time at a Trader Joe’s in Portland, OR. It was a single-flavor type, strawberry jam. The moment he took his first taste, he was completely obsessed by it. Went online, bought some more flavors, and ended up offering it as a gift for several of our friends. Even though I don’t care at all for jams, I had to try it because he would not take no for an answer – “Sally, you HAVE to try this, you will love it… trust me…C’mon, just a tiny bit”  And so I did. Indeed, it IS very nice.  I could macaron-it at some point…  (sorry, I have my own obsessions, as you may have noticed).

In our kitchen…

 

Two items to add interesting flavors to desserts… such as macarons, maybe? You’d think? A pumpkin spice extract (which I already used for macs a couple of months ago), and bergamot essential oil. Apparently it is a wonderful match for blueberries, so you can predict what will happen in our kitchen at some point. Essential oils are very strong, one or two drops will be more than enough to flavor a buttercream, a ganache,  a custard. Fun ingredients to play with, which I learned from a great cookbook called The Sweet Spot.

In our kitchen…


A new cookbook, very beautiful, it comes in a box wrapped in thin paper like a special sweet boxed in a store in Paris… I suppose you won’t be surprised that it comes from Ladurée, the legendary macaron maker, but the book covers quite a few other French delicacies…

In our kitchen….


I guess you can call us easily obsessed? We were watching old episodes of The Great British Bake Off on youtube and in those early years they offered little tours around UK. In one particular show they focused on Scottish shortbread. Phil remembered seeing boxes of those at our local Marshall’s. To make a long story short, he stopped by and grabbed one box. Then another. Then I stopped by and bought one “for him.”  Yeah, we’ve been enjoying those very very much. In small doses, but with certain regularity, I must admit. They melt in the mouth. They make me happy. I like being happy. End of story.

In our kitchen….


Talk about an exotic ingredient!  This is it. Poha,  a flattened rice from India. Have you ever heard of it? Thanks to our graduate student Ms. A, I bought a bag. And have been researching recipes. Stay tuned…

In our kitchen…


I blame my obsession (there we go again) with The Great British Bake Off on many of the items in this post. One more for you, stem ginger. Apparently very common in the UK, it is ginger cooked in a simple syrup and gives unique flavor to desserts. I was wondering how to obtain it in the US, until one day I saw one bottle (yes, just one) at our Marshall’s. Gotta love that store… shortbread cookies, stem ginger, exotic extracts, it’s a cook’s dream! My first recipe using it will be a lemon tart that got amazing reviews by Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, when one of the contestants made it.

In our kitchen….


A bag of candied orange peel. This is one very important ingredient for panettone, and one that can make or kill the recipe. I know that it’s possible to make my own, but having a good product available makes it a lot easier. This one is really nice, the taste is fresh and bright and the texture perfect.

 

In our kitchen….


Another ingredient I am looking forward to using soon… chestnut puree… yeah, sounds very special and of course could even be geared towards the making of a certain French delicacy made with almonds and egg whites…

In our kitchen…


A special, sturdy wooden spoon, simple but mandatory tool to make choux pastry.

In our kitchen…

Talking of choux pastry… Some éclairs did happen… but I need a little more practice before sharing my adventures with you. Still, they turned out quite mesmerizing to some….

In our kitchen…


A little single-function gadget, which normally I would not be too wild about. But this one is a green bean slicer. We eat green beans with almonds quite often, and Phil loves the texture they get when prepped this way. We found it at ebay.  If you’d like to see it in action, here is an 11 second video featuring the resident George Clooney. Better than the original, obviously.

In our kitchen…


Could not resist bringing this home.. purple, one of my favorite colors, and the message? Perfect!  Well, the only way to make it better would be with “children” instead of “child.”  But I am not too picky…

And since the word dog just popped up…

I am forced to allow our pups to bark their piece… Without further ado,  let’s see what the Magnificent Trio has been up to in the past three months…

Bogey continues to feed his reputation of The Greatest Destroyer of Balls and Dog Toys

Although Oscar thinks his methods are better, and he does it with a lot more sex-appeal….

Whereas others? Others have class and dignity. Much needed in this world, if you ask me.

Bogey is always ready to play (photo taken at 6:05 am)…

and, truth be told, there is one toy he never managed to destroy, a back massager that was never born to be a dog toy, but I highly recommend it if you have a pup with excessive enthusiasm around…

The pups have been through many great moments… like the anticipation of Turkey Day

and its unavoidable consequences….

Exercising their fast reflexes…

Chilling out with Mom…

.
Being immortalized on a plate…
(we are still searching for one for Osky, so far no luck!)

But he doesn’t let that bring him down. He’s
The Bad Ass Who Shall Not Be Bothered

As it is often the case, into every life a little rain must fall… and for the pups, that also applies… we’ve had a few trips…

 

Yes, the kennel happened, more than once…

But they know we always come back to rescue them to their forever loving home….

THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT….   

That is all for now, folks… We hope you enjoyed this sort of long virtual tour through the Bewitching Kitchen…


FROM OUR HOME TO YOURS:

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Happy New Year In My Kitchen!

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen: Happy New Year!

THREE YEARS AGO: And another year starts…

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen: January 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tacos with Pork in Green Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO:  Maui New Year!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Natural Beauty

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Rye

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE

I never imagined I would call a butternut squash dish “festive”, but it’s the word that came to my mind as I savored it. I blame it on the addition of pomegranate seeds. They turn any dish into a celebration, little jewels of the gastronomic world. Plus their slightly sharp taste complements sweets, complements veggies, meats, hard to imagine something that cannot be paired with these red beauties. Remember Fesenjan? Anyway, in this preparation, I roasted butternut squash as I’ve done many times, in coconut oil with paprika. To me, it’s a trio made in heaven. And no, I do not use smoked paprika for this anymore, I now prefer a milder flavor with the squash. Of course, do as your taste buds instruct you to.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE
(inspired by several sources)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in large cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
walnut halves or large pieces
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
water if needed to thin sauce
fresh pomegranate seeds
light drizzle of pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the pieces of butternut squash in a large bowl, drizzle with the coconut oil, mixing it very quickly because it solidifies fast. Season with paprika, salt, and a little pepper. Transfer the squash to a baking dish that holds the pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then add walnuts, mixing gently with the squash. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the squash is golden, with edges turning slightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce mixing tahini, lemon juice pepper and pepper. If it seems too thick, add water until you reach a nice fluid consistency.

When the squash and walnuts are roasted, transfer to a serving dish, drizzle the tahini sauce all over, and top with fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have pomegranate molasses, consider drizzling a little bit on top, a nice additional contrast of color and flavor.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This could be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, for those trying to move away from the classics, or perhaps in need to increase the variety of vegetarian-friendly sides. Of course, it’s odd to mention Thanksgiving in December, but the color-scheme of this dish makes it hard not to. Come to think of it, roasted sweet potatoes would work wonders too replacing the squash. And dried cranberries could play the role of pomegranate. The tahini dressing is perfect to tie the whole thing together in a very luscious way. We enjoyed this hearty side dish with store-bought roast chicken. Admittedly, this could be considered a sin in the home of a food blogger, but we love the convenience of it, and our store does a pretty decent job preparing it. So, we make our life easy and often bring one home for our dinner.

Plan ahead and reserve some tahini sauce (as well as extra pomegranate seeds) in case you want to call it lunch next day… I did, and it was absolutely delicious, love the contrast of a cool sauce with the warm squash.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Complicit Conspiracy of Alcohol

TWO YEARS AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

FOUR YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Gougeres

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

 

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